The Class A Lakewood BlueClaws have been exciting to watch this season, despite a disappointing 6-16 overall record thus far this season. This week I spoke with team skipper Shawn Williams about several talented young prospects such as righty pitcher Shane Watson, outfielder Jose Pujols and infielder Josh Tobias. Additionally, I asked him about the injuries his team has dealt with so far in the early going.
Read ahead for the exclusive comments.
-The BlueClaws have had quite a few injuries with some key offensive contributors like Deivi Grullon, Zach Coppola and Cornelius Randolph missing time. How is the team able to deal with this kind of shake up?
For me, it gives an opportunity for a lot of these other guys to get a chance and they’ve taken full advantage of it and we’ve still– I mean, we’ve been swinging the bats well overall all season and, like I said, it’s giving them a chance to get in there and show what they can do and they’ve done a heck of a job filling in.
-With a few key guys out of action, does that impact the way you manage?
It doesn’t effect how I manage, but I think in the long run, it’s going to make us better because of other guys getting opportunities, so they’re staying sharp. The guys are going to come back when they’re healthy and I think, for me, you got the whole lineup and you’ve got the 12 position players that are going to take off because they’ve all gotten their chance to come in and when they get a chance to play, it’s just staying fresh and they’ve been producing and helping us stay in these ball games.
–Shane Watson is a guy that some may think is beyond this level. What thoughts can you share on Shane and his progress?
Shane has been, especially his last two starts, has been outstanding. I mean, he’s been a lot of fun to watch. Just his demeanor, his mound presence, how aggressive he is going at these hitters, his tempo. I mean, you’re going to see hitters calling time a lot because he’s working quick and it works to his advantage and it’s just been a lot of fun to watch.
–Josh Tobias has delivered some great output (.347/.462/.560 slash line in 20 games) thus far this season. How impressive has he been?
He’s doing– for me he does everything right. Obviously, he’s hitting very well, but just all the little things. Whether it’s every ground ball to the left side he’s backing up, he does whatever it takes, he’ll block a throw down to second, he’s turning double plays, how he runs the bases, he’s playing 100-percent, he’s getting after it every day. He’s just, like I said, he does everything right. He’s a baseball player. He’s locked in every day. He’s a great teammate. He’ll do something at some point and it might not be with the bat to help you win a game.
-Infielder Emmanuel Marrero has been very consistent at the plate (.304 avg, HR, seven RBI heading into action on Saturday). What are your thoughts on his improvements after he struggled offensively here last year?
He’s been a lot of fun to watch. Just to see him in spring training, it was really fun to see him because this kid went home and– I mean you talk about a kid that went home and got after it, whether it’s how great he was defensively last year, you’ve got that but now he’s a step or two quicker. You know, by the stuff he did in the off-season with the program for agility, he’s getting stronger, hitting wise, he’s just improved so much and he was great last year and now this year, he’s gotten off to a great start. Swinging the bat well but he’s another guy that’s doing something every night that’s helping you. It’s great to watch.
–Wilson Garcia joined the roster in place of Grullon. He’s been a great contributor (.317 avg, 10 RBI in 14 games). Thoughts on him?
He can just flat out hit. For me, he barrels everything. He’s batting a little bit over .300 and I’m not even really a guy that looks at numbers. If you were to watch him hit every day (without looking at his stats), you’d think, “This guy’s gotta be batting .400.” I don’t know how many hard outs that he makes compared to even the hits that he gets. He’s got a great idea at the plate. He’s very hard to strike out. He puts the bat on the ball and, really puts the barrel of the bat on the ball and when you’re very consistent like he is, you’re going to hit and, for me, there’s no telling how well he’s going to hit by the end of the year if given the chance. He’s one of the guys that’s getting a chance to hit right now and he’s taken full advantage of it.
-Lastly, Jose Pujols is a name a lot of prospect fans are becoming familiar with. I’ve seen him hit in batting practice and he has a lot of power and already has (four) homers for you this year. What else has he shown you this season?
That’s what’s very exciting about him is you see the BP’s and see the kind of power he has and, right now, he’s becoming a hitter and you’ve got to become a hitter first and then, the power’s there, but, the power comes.
This past week and a half, even two weeks, his at bats have absolutely been tremendous for us, two strikes, I don’t know how many two-strike hits he’s gotten, so for me especially as a young kid how quickly he’s learning that his whole approach, having a plan up there and sticking to it and he’s awesome. He’s a tough kid. Just watching him, he’s not gonna get too high, he’s not gonna get too low. And that’s another thing with young kids you don’t see. So he’s just very mature for his age and, more importantly, he’s becoming a hitter and if he sticks with that and he keeps hitting, then the power’s going to really come, because it’s there. He’s got some kind of bat speed.